Active-shooter drill provides learning opportunities

INDEPENDENCE — Overall, the active-shooter drill on Nov. 17 at Central High School went well, said organizer Kimber Townsend.

“I think the best takeaways are in the comments shared by participants afterward,” she said. “Many expressed determination to increase their first-aid skills, while others acknowledged the emotional toll this kind of event, even in practice, elicited, and the need to better prepare to provide emotional support to the whole school community.”

The drill involved more than 120 people, including faculty and students of CHS, Polk County CERT (County Emergency Response Team), and responding fire, emergency medical services personnel, and law enforcement agencies.

Buzz Brazeau, Central superintendent, said he was pleased with what he saw at the drill.

“We learned an awful lot,” he said.

One of those things was the way incident command centers are run during emergency events.

“The old model of an incident command was on site,” Brazeau said. “The new model doesn’t really have that. We have to plan for someone outside of the building to be in incident command.”

Also, Brazeau said district officials learned that information needs to be spread throughout the building so it is more easily assessable.

Communication was improved from the last emergency drill conducted at the high school, which was in July 2014 and simulated a plane crashing on school grounds, Brazeau noted.

“Our communication at times in that first one was spotty,” he said. “Since that time, we installed a repeater, so our overall communication (this time) was better.”

Others struggled with communicating. Independence Police Chief Bob Mason said that, because the officers participating in the drill used a different channel, their radio communication was difficult.

He said he and Monmouth Police Chief Darrell Tallan ran the command trailer.

“What I learned is there won’t be enough people soon enough,” Mason said. “You know that going in that initially you’re going to be pulled in all kinds of directions. As soon as you can, you break that into manageable chunks and start assigning people.”

The exercise was put together by Townsend, Independence Police Sgt. Lyle Gilbert, Monmouth Police Sgt. Matt Olafson, Polk County Fire District No. 1 Deputy Chief Neal Olson and CHS Athletic Director Shane Hedrick.

CHS, IPD, MPD, Polk Fire No. 1 and Polk County Sheriff’s Office deputies participated in the exercise.

Representatives from 12 different agencies, including the regional FBI, Oregon State Medical Examiner’s Office and Oregon State Fire Marshall’s Office, observed the drill.

“When people walk away from an exercise with a list of things they intend to learn, practice and become better prepared for in the future, that’s exactly why we do exercises like these,” Townsend said.

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